MISSISSAUGA, Ont., Canada — With the walls of consolidation and utility competition closing in, a group of hvac contractors have stepped up their efforts to recruit members at home and across Canada into their “new” organization.

“I see ourselves as a testing ground against Lennox and the utilities,” said Roger D. Grochmal, chairman of ClimateCare. “We are looking for members who are interested in staying independent. We don’t want to be a farm team for consolidators.”

There are currently 28 members of the Ontario group, down from 35 last year. Grochmal, owner of Atlas Air Conditioning Co., said that four or five of the previous members were bought out by Lennox, thus voiding their membership.

ClimateCare was originally founded in 1992 under the name of the Heating and Air Conditioning Contractors Executive Organization (CEO). The group was made up of a handful of hvac contractors who wanted to share their resources with other contractors while strengthening their independence.

In 1995, CEO began manufacturing its own private-label products. By 1998, the group set a strategic plan to face new challenges in the changing hvac industry. Subsequently, it changed its name to ClimateCare, which was felt to be more reflective of the group’s focus.

Like a similar organization in the United States (Excellence Alliance, Inc.), ClimateCare is counting on the strength of its members to band together using a variety of educational, business, and purchasing programs. Unlike EAI, the Canadian group will be owned and operated by members.

Benefits of membership

ClimateCare has put together a package of programs designed to benefit its existing contractor-members and attract new ones.

Some of those benefits include:

  • Common identity package, including branding, van decals, and advertising;

  • Agreements with major manufacturers and wholesalers;

  • Consumer financing programs;

  • Training;

  • Fuel discounts;

  • Insurance; and

  • Computer solutions.

In addition, the group offers recruitment services for those interested in joining the trade.

“We recruit on a personal referral basis,” said Grochmal. “We advertise in trade publications and through direct mail.”

ClimateCare is stressing education to its members through training programs that cover business management and marketing.

“Our focus is on education,” said Grochmal. “Utilities have played a huge part in our business, especially in marketing. We need to learn how to set up our programs, now that we are facing a deregulated world.”

Consolidated ctrs need not apply

The group has set up a number of criteria for membership. Contractors must be independently owned, in business for five years, financially sound, licensed, and with a primary market in residential retrofit work.

ClimateCare is not looking for commercial or industrial contractors because they want to “stay focused” on one market, according to Grochmal.

Many of the contractors in the group list Lennox as one of their major product lines. In fact, Lennox is one of ClimateCare’s preferred vendors. But Lennox is also becoming a major competitor for the group.

“I am having meetings with Lennox,” said Grochmal. “We need to determine who is going to be a friend or foe. We also have a fireplace manufacturer and a wholesaler who are buying contractors and becoming our competition.”

While trying to resolve this issue, the group will continue to expand into the quickly changing Ontario market. Grochmal wants to have 70 members, which would give his group a 20% market share in the province. He also hopes to expand beyond Ontario in the near future.

“We’ve had expressions of interest from the East and West,” he said. However, “We want to solidify Ontario before moving outward, which we intend to do next year.”

For more information, contact ClimateCare at 888-838-5390; alphaceo@kent.net (e-mail).